Image courtesy David Rago and Millers
Words by Rachel Keeley
The mid century chair: buying on a budget
With the market for the ever popular Mid Century chair as buoyant as ever, is it possible to collect design classics on a shoestring? Putting the ‘time versus money’ argument to one side — let’s face it, if you want something badly enough you’ll find the time — the joy of securing a piece of design history coupled with just a small dent to one’s pocket is most satisfying.
Our hunt for a classic Mid Century chair began through indecision, namely an inability to identify our all time favourite ‘we’ll take six of these’ dining chair. So we adopted a mix and match, buy one chair at a time approach, the potential upside being a variety of yummy chairs to sit on and admire. We knew we wanted a seamless blend of materials coupled with an overall colour scheme that would tie everything together. So, with a plan and a list of must-haves, we hit the internet.
Mid Century chair #1: Harry Bertoia for Knoll
Keeping a close eye on the variances in price vis-à-vis condition, we began stalking a ‘Model 420C’ side chair by Harry Bertoia for Knoll, eventually managing to secure an original. While structurally sound, its condition — caked in white emulsion and as rusty as hell — left a lot to be desired. A trip to the shot-blaster followed by a visit to the powder coater and, voilà, the finished piece was super and shiny and everything we’d hoped it would be, and all for less than £100.
Mid Century chair #2: Charles Eames for Herman Miller
Feeling jubilant, we turned our attention to Charles Eames. We already had a Herman Miller ‘H base’ tucked away from a previous stroke of luck, but could we duplicate our success in securing a Herman Miller dining armshell to match? While this particular design isn’t the most elusive of creatures, trying to acquire it with one’s pocket money and in the colour of one’s choice was going to be tricky. Months went by, and then up popped a legless shell in need of a complete overhaul. Our patience paid off, and despite the refurbishment taking an age, not to mention an unquantifiable amount of elbow grease, we now have an all singing, all dancing Eames chair, and all for a little over £115.
Shortly afterwards we found an extremely grubby Charles Eames side shell, produced by British manufacturer Hille for Herman Miller, which scrubbed up rather nicely – and a snip at £30.
Mid Century chair #3: Carl Jacobs chair for Kandya
Next on our list, the C2 ‘Jason’ chair designed by Danish designer Carl Jacobs for Kandya — a Mid Century chair we’ve ogled over again and again, but which always, without fail, commands a high price. Unless it’s a ‘Jason’ chair disguised as an ‘up-cycled 1950s dining chair’, that is. To say our find needed a little TLC would be an understatement, but that’s OK. It’s more than OK. It’s £45 OK.
We’re still hunting for the final two chairs to complete our ensemble, but the results so far speak for themselves. With a little time and patience, even the most celebrated of Mid Century chairs can be sourced on a tight budget!
Rachel Keeley contributed an article to MidCentury issue 06 Colour-blocking and piped seams